The question of peer review is one of the central topics of the current controversy over scientific publishing, with Wiley already trialing a “transferable peer review” procedure to speed and refine the process. Now, Palgrave Macmillan is rolling out its own “open peer review trial” as its contribution to the reform of this particular niche.

“We’re experimenting to see how open forms of review can contribute to the development of scholarly monographs and Palgrave Pivot titles,” Palgrave Macmillan explains. “We’ve placed selected book proposals and associated sample chapters on this publicly-accessible website and are inviting comment from anyone who feels they can contribute to the development of these works … Peer review is at the heart of academic publishing.  However, ‘traditional’ single- or double-blind peer review, while effective in many ways, has limitations. We think that there may be benefits to a peer review process which requires greater accountability from reviewers, offers the possibility of additional perspectives, and has a greater focus on developing works and encouraging debate.”

Palgrave Macmillan is kicking off with works in three disciplines – culture and media, sociology, and economics – and has “prioritised interdisciplinary work, work with policy implications, and work which is itself concerned with digital behaviours and communication.” Needless to say, this is not yet the hard science of, for instance, the Digital Science division of Macmillan Science and Education with its own “SureChem collection of >15million chemical structures from world patents,” but it is at least a beginning.

“We see this trial as an opportunity to learn about what sort of feedback is possible and useful in this context and to contribute to the academic community’s understanding of open peer review,” Macmillan continues. “We don’t have a specific end in mind – this is a trial rather than a pilot – but the trial will certainly inform Palgrave Macmillan’s thinking about peer review.”

Does this indicate a shift in attitudes at major publishers, with some actually coming in on the side of reform and transparency rather than sticking with legacy business models that carry a huge “image problem“? Time will tell, I suppose. But I would be very interested to see how Palgrave Macmillan’s open peer review trial develops, and to hear what people thing about it.



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